Culver’s, the Wisconsin-based "Butter Burger" and custard chain with dozens of locations in the Chicago suburbs, plans to open its first restaurant in the city early next year.
The store is planned for 3500 N. Clark St., in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood, a former Chase Bank location.
The urban setting will bring challenges, said Justin Obriecht, the franchisee who is opening the restaurant with a partner. Because of Chicago’s high property values, the restaurant’s plot will be the most expensive of any Culver’s, he said. And, it won’t have a drive-thru, which is responsible for more than 40 percent of sales for most Culver’s locations.
But Obriecht thinks Wrigleyville’s population density, and its ballgame crowds, will bring lots of customers to the restaurant. The neighborhood is also home to many college students who are familiar with Culver’s from their hometowns, he said.
To make up for the lack of a drive-thru, the restaurant will have a window facing the street, which Obriecht hopes will be popular with the neighborhood’s late-night crowd. He plans to keep the restaurant open later than most suburban locations, perhaps until midnight or 1 a.m. on weekends and game nights.
“Without that late night business, it would be hard to make the numbers work,” said Obriecht, who lives in Lakeview and runs five other Culver’s locations.
Evanston will also gain its first Culver’s at a strip mall at the corner of Howard Street and McCormick Boulevard. The franchisee, Guy Hollis, hopes to break ground within a year.
Culver’s, which was founded in 1984 in Sauk City, Wis. has more than 500 locations, mostly in the Midwest. A few of them have been in urban areas, including Indianapolis, Milwaukee and St. Paul, said co-founder Craig Culver.
The company has had locations in the Chicago suburbs for about 15 years, he said. It has wanted to build a location in the city for a long time, but has had trouble finding the right spot.
“There just isn’t any space, and there’s the expense. It’s expensive wherever, but in Chicago it’s very expensive,” Culver said. “You have to sell a lot of Butter Burgers to pay for that space.”
For Obriecht, the decision to bring the restaurant to Wrigleyville wasn’t easy. He already had enough work from his other franchises.
But his wife urged him to open a location in the city and he decided that the restaurant would provide him with a way to give back to his neighborhood.
“I’ve lived in the city for six or seven years, and the thing I don’t see very often is sincere, genuine hospitality,” he said. “That’s what I hope to bring.”Copyright © 2015, RedEye